One of the oldest inhabited areas on earth, Tanzania was founded in its present form in 1964 when mainland Tanganyika (formerly a German and then British colony) merged with Zanzibar (Arab ruled) after both gained independence.
The largest country by area in East Africa, Tanzania’s population is approaching 44 million, with Dar es Salaam the largest city. A relatively poor country with an agricultural-based economy, in recent decades’ gold and mineral resource production has increased while Tanzania has also developed a prosperous tourism industry. The world-renowned Mount Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park are the jewels of this industry.
Tourism has been helped by a stable political system, with multi-party parliamentary government introduced in 1992. The economy has grown above 6% annually since 2006, one of the best growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa.
Tanzania’s relatively well-preserved wilderness sustains great biodiversity, from the scores of wildebeest to over 250 reptile species.
Home to 120-odd tribal groups, more than 80 percent of people still live in rural areas. Swahili and English are the official languages (the latter is used more in schools and universities than in day-to-day speech), while numerous local dialects are still spoken across the country.
Christianity is the largest religion followed by Islam, though Tanzania does not have an official religion and prides itself in pluralism and diversity; it also retains a number of indigenous religions and cultures.